When you travel the world with a family of 5, you look for savings everywhere you can. We hunted down kid-discounts, found free-days at museums, and cooked for ourselves as often as we could. In terms of housing, short-term rentals usually gave us the most bang-for-our-buck, but sometimes we were able to save even more money by lodging at a youth hostel. These experiences added color to our trip and helped us stick to our budget.
Some travelers don’t realize that many hostels offer “family rooms.” You don’t have to bunk dorm-style with strangers and worry about locking up your gear. Many hostels don’t have age restrictions; they welcome kids, teens, adults and senior citizens. Youth hostels also provide helpful and cost-saving amenities like wi-fi, kitchenettes and laundry rooms. In Europe, we received discounted tickets and coupons for restaurants and entry fees. Beyond these savings and services, hostels offer travelers the chance to connect with people from all over the world.
There are some downsides to staying at hostels. For us, smoking was an issue. Also, some popular hostels in city centers are expensive compared to short-term rentals. Finally, a hostel can only be as good as its ever-changing-array of guests. It’s possible that one week guests are polite and friendly, and the next week the hostel is filled with rowdy, rude tourists.
From the best to the worst, here are reviews of three hostels we stayed at during our Round The World (RTW) trip.
Prague, The Czech Republic
- Charles Bridge Hostel
- Cost: $108 per night, we stayed 7 nights
- Stayed: May, 2015
We loved our stay at Charles Bridge Economic Hostel and strongly recommend it to families traveling on a budget. We couldn’t believe the screaming deal we got – just over $100 per night for a huge, private top-floor suite. They offered a multitude of free perks like bottled water, hot cocoa, freshly brewed espresso, discount tickets, a printer and guidebooks on loan. There were several wash-machines in the building (no dryer, but drying racks readily available).
This hostel’s no-charge internet service was above and beyond any wi-fi we’d had elsewhere. Our daughter completed her online semester exams without any fear of getting kicked off the network and having to start over.
There was a handy grocery store right across the street. Our suite’s kitchenette had everything we needed (toaster, hot plate, fridge) to eat all our breakfasts and a few simple dinners in the hostel. Finally, the staff were genuinely friendly and kind. We had many fun chats with them over beer in the afternoon.
La Cumbre, Argentina
- Hostel La Cumbre
- Cost: $83 per night, we stayed two nights
- Stayed: November, 2014
The Hostel La Cumbre was in a great big converted mansion with high ceilings and several open common spaces. We loved that they enforced their non-smoking policy. It felt airy and clean, and while we were there, quiet. But the building had started showing its age and this hostel definitely fell in the category of “budget” lodging.
Hospitality was top-notch. We had clear communication with the owners and were warmly welcomed by the receptionist when we arrived. They also offered great laundry services. Our full laundry bag came back quickly, nicely folded, and was only $6.00 US for a week’s worth of 5 people’s dirty clothes.
We stayed in one room with a tiny attached bathroom. We had one single bed, one bunk bed and one double bed. There was just enough room to put our bags on the floor, we had to carefully maneuver around them to get to the bathroom. Like other hostels in Argentina the bathroom was tiny and the shower curtain ineffective. We had to mop up after every shower.
Although the hostel offered kitchen facilities, we only used them to prepare pre-bedtime snacks. We received a simple breakfast as part of the price-per-night.
- Student’s Travellers Inn
- Cost: $98 per night, we stayed two nights
- Stayed: April, 2015
The value-priced Student and Travelers Inn is located in Athens’ touristy Plaka district. We rented two private rooms, each with its own bathroom and shower. The rooms were simple and tidy, with fresh paint and decent linens.
There were two things that seriously and negatively impacted our stay: smoke and unruly guests. Though there were lots of large no-smoking signs throughout the public spaces, guests and employees smoked inside at-will. It didn’t seem that people had been smoking in our rooms, but that was irrelevant when smoke filtered in from the hallway.
As for noise, on one of the nights of our stay, there was a raucous party at a neighboring tavern. Rambunctious tourists threw food at the hostel windows, and when the tavern closed, the party moved inside. Hostel guests congregated in the hallways where they smoked, talked and danced until about 3 AM.
Sadly, this is where we learned that any hostel experience would be heavily influenced by others. This hostel’s convenient location, low price and spacious rooms would have been perfect for our family if only we’d shared our nights there with better-behaved travelers.